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Working (Z) Visa In China: What You Need To Know

Jul 11, 2008
To work legally in China, you need the following:

*Z-visa (aka working visa)
*Foreign Expert/Work Certificate
*Residence permit


Before leaving your country, you need to obtain a Z-visa. The other two certificates are obtained in China.

In order to enter China, you can apply for one of four different types of visas.

1. Working (Z) visa
2. Tourist (L) visa
3. Business (F) visa
4. Student (X) visa


The Z-visa allows you to come into China with the intention to work. It is a single-entry visa that is valid for 30 days after arriving in China.

In order to be approved for a Z-visa, you will need the following:

* Letter of invitation from your employer
* Work permit that your employer obtains on your behalf
* Medical check (in some cases)

China only issues Z-visas to those they consider to be experts in a particular field. For example, being a native English speaker allows one to teach English in China. Having a Master's Degree, quantifiable work experience, or professional accreditation also qualifies you for a Z-visa.

To obtain a Z-visa to teach English in China, you must have the following:

* A university degree
* Professional work experience
* A teaching English as a foreign language certificate (TEFL)


1. Register with the Public Security Bureau (PSB)

After arriving in China, within 48 hours, you need to register with the Public Security Bureau (PSB).

2. Medical Examination

Next, you need to pass a medical examination. It is non-invasive, and must be completed within a month of your arrival in China.

3. Foreign Expert/Work Certificate

Approximately a week after receiving the medical report, the Foreign Expert/Work Certificate, or Red Book, can be issued.

4. Interview with PSB

In some cities, you could also be called in for an interview with the PSB.

5. Residence permit

Finally, your employer can obtain your residence permit for you.

You need the Z-visa to enter China, but you need a Foreign Expert/Work Certificate and a residence permit in order to legally work in China.


In China, the visa process is decentralized, which means that depending on where you live and what sort of license your employer has, your visa procedure may vary. There are city specific, district specific, and license specific regulations.

In most cases, to extend a Z-visa requires you to return to your original country. This means if you are currently in China on a different visa, you need to return and apply for a new visa in your original country before starting work in China. Some employers will provide airfare compensation.


To work abroad in any country requires an official work visa in order to enter. China also requires a visa if foreigners plans to visit for tourism or leisure. Without the correct documentation, you will be denied entry. If you do not complete the full visa process or work without a working, or Z-visa, you and your employer will both be fined upwards of 50,000 RMB, and you will be deported. From the moment you enter the country, your identification information will be registered into a national database and tracked. Thus, it is highly recommended that you are familiar with all the visa requirements, although they are subject to change regularly without notice.
About the Author
Vina Pulido is a marketing associate with EF English First. You can email her at vina.pulido@ef.com. This information was gathered by EF English First, the world's largest privately owned English language training company with over 90 schools in 50 cities in China. Teaching with EF are over 23,000 teachers. EF sponsors all teachers' working visas and welcomes applications to teach in China. Teach English Abroad at EF English First
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